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WHAT'S IT LIKE LIVING IN RUSSIA TODAY?

 
 
Reply Sun 19 Jan, 2003 02:29 am
Everyday life? How does it vary from section to section? The effect of the Russian Mafia? Views of U.S. and other countries?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 75,579 • Replies: 414
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Jan, 2003 12:15 pm
Mapleleaf, I can only offer my personal observations from a tourist perspective of Russia in July 2000 for 15 days. To begin with, our boat that cruised from Moscow to St Petersburg were staffed with professonals; doctors, lawyers, and professors. They served as waiters, bar-tenders, and room stewards. The reason these professionals work on boats is that in 2000, their average monthly salary was $100, but by working on the boat, they can earn upwards of $500 per month just on gratuities. We visited many different towns along the river including Uglich, Kostroma, Petrozavodsk, Kizhi Island, and Mandroga. We observed the living conditions of many Russian towns, and my conclusion was that many Russians lived harsh lives. At every port, people would set up tables to sell Russian crafts at very modest prices - or whatever the market will bare. We visited shops and department stores without the fancy displays we are accustomed to seeing in most developed countries. I purchased a kekushka doll of Bill Clinton with Monika and all the other 'girls' he was involved with in five parts, hand painted, all for $10. However, in Moscow and St Petersburg, they have modern shopping centers with all the famous designer labels with prices to match. I didn't see many shoppers with bags, however. c.i.
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Docent P
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 06:23 am
>Everyday life? How does it vary from section to section? The effect of the Russian Mafia? Views of U.S. and other countries?

Mr. Mapleleaf, since I have a little knowledge of this topic I will ge glad to be useful. Can you ask a more specific question?

BTW why you decided to place this topic to the Asia section (i.e. in the Washington Post paper Russia is placed to the Europe one)? Of course actually it doesn't matter although some of our foolish chauvinists would feel them offended reading this Very Happy .
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Mr. Cicerone Imposter, can you tell me, how many Westerns read Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" before visiting Russia to learn the mysterious Russian nature like George Bush did once?
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 06:45 am
Docent P wrote:
Mr. Mapleleaf, since I have a little knowledge of this topic I will ge glad to be useful. Can you ask a more specific question?


Got one ... how do Russians look to the court case that the victims of the NORD OST theatre hostagetaking have started against the state (or city, what is it?)? Do they agree, or consider it unpatriotic? If they agree, do they think it's any use? (Are there reliable opinion polls on any such questions?)

Docent P wrote:
Mr. Cicerone Imposter, can you tell me, how many Westerns read Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" before visiting Russia to learn the mysterious Russian nature like George Bush did once?

Would it help him much?

Or, to ask it in a more interesting (be it perhaps flippant) way: which one book of Russian literature (current or old) would you recommend a Westerner to read if he was to learn about the nature of "the Russian man of today" (man as in human, not as in male) ?

Glad to see someone from Russia on the forum! ;-)
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Mapleleaf
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 06:45 am
Docent, pleased to meet you. How do Russians feel about the United States?
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Asherman
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 08:03 am
Docent,

Welcome to the A2K site. I expect that you will be flooded with questions about life in the former USSR. These are understandably difficult times for you and your country. The great majority of Americans wish you well, and hope that conditions will improve quickly. Part of the problem, I think is that we seem to know so little about Russia. Oh, we know the important part that Russian sacrifice played in defeating the Nazi menace. We are familiar with the political and military waltz that was the Cold Ware, but I think we are pretty ignorant about what life is like today in Russia. I hope that you will help open a door that has been closed for too long a time.

Is there anything we can do to help you better understand America? I believe that you will find a wide cross-section of opinions here at A2K, and most of us can not wait to talk.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 11:37 am
Docent P, WELCOME to A2K. In answer to your question, no, I did not read "Crime and Punishment." However, I did try my best to get information on the overall history of Russia, and it's current economic and political life - which I do for all the places in the world I visit. We also had a professoinal journalist on our boat that provided us with four lectures during the fifteen days we were on the boat. She provided us with the difficulties that Russia is having, and why the conversion from communism to capitalism was a failure. As I said, my perspectives were only as a tourist in Russia for 15 days. I do not presume to understand the complexities nor the average daily life of any Russian. Mine is only an opinion from my observations. c.i.
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Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Tue 21 Jan, 2003 07:17 pm
Current affairs story I saw a few years ago, they were showing a Russian man a shopping centre. (I can't remember the circumstances of the visit). What I remember very clearly was this man standing in front of the fruit and vegetable stand crying like a baby. He had probably never seen that much fruit in his whole life and could not believe that were not people fighting each other to buy it. Really brought home how lucky we are!!
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Docent P
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Jan, 2003 01:24 am
Hello everyone. Thank you for the greetings.

I'm amazed seeing such great attention to my humble person. As I said I'll be glad to be usefull but of course I can't pretend to introduce the whole Russian community's opinion (btw I'm a little anti-Putinist) so please don't be surprised if you find some different opinions expressed by any Russian citizen.

>Docent, pleased to meet you. How do Russians feel about the United States?

IMHO generally these feelings aren't rather different from such ones in any other 3d world country.I'll try to present only my own understanding of a typical Russian attitudes (but not my personal feeling!) in the shortest possible way.

I'm afraid mostly these feelings are not very good. All of us have been given this stupid Marxist education where "great teachers" insist that "American damned capitalists" rule the whole world using their dollars (which are an equallent of any power according to the Marx's crap) and so if the Americans have tme most number of dollars they keep responsibility for everything bad which happens anywhere. Since there have been no good events in our country for ages the Russians would like to accuse the US in their problem. BUT NOT DOLLARS! Dollar (the main nation currency in Russia) is smth that allows us to plan anything more than for a day forward, dollars helped us to outstand the crisis of 1998 when (unlikely in 1991 or 1992) a big part of the Russians (I mean usual honest workers, not gangsters or high-ranking officials) saved their money accumulations converting them in dollars and filling our matrasses (of course not bank counts!) by these green banknotes! Dollar is the last hope of any beggar! Dollar is the only real way to anyone's LIGHT FUTURE (which we dreamed about so much once)! For example if you lend an apartment somewhere in Russia and promise to pay dollars (not EURO or DM) you may account on a 10-20% rake-off. So the attitudes toward usual Americans strongly contradict to ones toward the American state. A typical American is a kindful person (smbd like Santa-Claus) who will give you dollars if you are lucky. All American tourists enjoy their being in Russia very much. Also I know an American who has lived here about 3 years and has excellent relationships with everyone around and really likes his life. But the happiest persons here are American representatives and "consultants" from different foundations and big companies (simply speaking organisations going to invest money to our business). Their "business trips" there are like visiting Disneyland, Las-Vegas and Monte-Carlo together. All their job is endless enjoying super-luxury and super-expensive (more luxury and expensive than anywhere in New York) restaurunts, elitarian clubs, casinos, parties in old renaissance-style palaces with a lot of vodka, caviar and pretty girls. Of course all these pleasures are not only totally paid by the Russian side but the "consultants" even are paid their salary for every working day including overtime extra charge for every night spent in a casino for example. So if you are going to visit Russia as a tourist I'm sure you will enjoy it.

And at last one story. Once I visited a party at some technical University (I have a part-time work there) where were mainly professors, masters of technical sciences and other specialists of electronic. One of them was very glad that day and was talking a lot how his laboratory had just been given some very expensive American micro-controllers from kindful uncle Soros - a famous American benefactor. But the problems began when our borderguards arrested this cargo because of wrong documents (it was a typical situation when some official hasn't been paid his "share" and stops a cargo which seemly Soros hadn't been worried about). Of course our poor professors weren't able to pay all these bribes and fines. Eventually Soros saved the situation - he paid all necessary money and the University got this priceless gift. That was the story my familiar guy spoke. Just an hour later the same man (rather drunk already) was talking how they will develop (using these new microcontrollers) such great things that will allow "our Chinese and Serbian brothers" to destroy all these "damned stealth aircrafts".

I hope now you have got a common idea.

I'm sorry Sad I've been busy last days but I'll reply to other postings as soon as possible.
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Mapleleaf
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Jan, 2003 01:36 am
Docent, take your time. We are happy that you are willing to share your experiences.
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Docent P
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Jan, 2003 04:29 am
>Got one ... how do Russians look to the court case that the victims of the NORD OST theatre hostagetaking have started against the state (or city, what is it?)? Do they agree, or consider it unpatriotic? If they agree, do they think it's any use?

No. I'm sure nobody thinks so. The official TV of course sometimes demonstrates propagandist clips where some "right" Nord-Ost victims (or more often the Kursk crewmen's relatives) say that it is "an offence to the killed people" and so other bullsh*t but IMHO these actions are being conducted in not the strongest way. Seemly the government is not really worried about the trial. At first it is totally perspectiveless. I see no hope even from Strasburg. Then if even Luzhkov (Moscow mayor) is ever be judged (which is absolutely unreal) to pay these 9 million $ he will never pay them because he will say that the total city's budget and Luzhkov himself has no money at all. Our court has no possibilities to force them without the government's help.

Generally the main idea of this trial is not to judge someone but to justice the highest authorities (personally Comrade Putin). That is why it is directed against local Moscow authorities who of course can't response for these terrible events. All this reminds me the same events after Budennovsk (another very famous hostage-taking action of 1995) when our "democratic community" was discussing "who really ordered Alpha to begin their unsuccessful assault". Surprisingly the main guilt person became Inferior Minister Yerin. Despite the facts that Inferior Minister couldn't order anything to Alpha because it is subordinated directly to the President and that Yeltsin himself had ordered "to destroy these scums" in shot of TV cameras and this fragment had been demonstrated over the world. Our "independent media" can forget about such facts when it is necessary for the authorities.

>(Are there reliable opinion polls on any such questions?)

No. Neither reliable nor unreliable. The official and pro-government medias prefer to keep silence about this topic. A couple of opposition Internet sites are very sceptical and express the same opinion I put on higher.

>>how many Westerns read Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" before visiting Russia to learn the mysterious Russian nature like George Bush did once?

>Would it help him much?

Smile Dostoyevsky is a very specific author. He used to explore "dark images and fears in the depth of a human's soul" may be like Hichkock although with the rather less talent (all his books are SOOO BOOORING, nothing comparable with today American psychilogical thrillers). To say that he shows a Russian soul is the same as to say that Hichkock discover an American one Smile . As about his "Crime and punishment" - it is his worst work and, as the director of the Dostoyevsky's museam told me, she would never recommend anyone to read it. That was why I was so sorry about Bush when he said that he was reading this crap (or may be he was joking?).

>Or, to ask it in a more interesting (be it perhaps flippant) way: which one book of Russian literature (current or old) would you recommend a Westerner to read if he was to learn about the nature of "the Russian man of today" (man as in human, not as in male)?

Of course it's hard to answer. One author I can remember now is Dovlatov (American citizen once) - very interesting and talented author (altough an alcoholic) who may be known in America. Also a good book is Astolf de Kyustin's "Russia. 1839" This is a never outdated super-bestseller. I will add somebody else if I remember.

Who I don't recommend besides Dostoyevsky is Solzhenitsyn.
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>Is there anything we can do to help you better understand America?

To send a cassette with last parts of Homer Simpson Very Happy (my favourite American cartoon).

>I believe that you will find a wide cross-section of opinions here at A2K, and most of us can not wait to talk.

Sometimes I may have problems with spare time so don't worry if you don't find my answer immediately.
---------

>In answer to your question, no, I did not read "Crime and Punishment."

You made a very good choice.

>She provided us with the difficulties that Russia is having, and why the conversion from communism to capitalism was a failure.

Is "capitalism" a known term in America (as I remember it was invented by Karl Marx)? I always prefer to say "democratic society" instead of "capitalism".
---------

>What I remember very clearly was this man standing in front of the fruit and vegetable stand crying like a baby. He had probably never seen that much fruit in his whole life and could not believe that were not people fighting each other to buy it.

It must have happened in Gorbachev period of 1985-1991. As for me I still can't forgive to myself that when our school was given a big party of humanitaruian aid from Germany I didn't steal at least one box (although I had got such possibility). I was too young, too naive, too stupid and too honest. So all the aid was stolen by our teachers. The chidren got nothing.
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the prince
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Jan, 2003 04:44 am
Docent P - whatever the problems facing Russia maybe, Moscow is one of the most beautiful cities to visit, and the people are so friendly and warm.

And by god, if u have dollars, you can lead a decadant lifestyle !!! Glad to have some one from Russia around here !! Spasiba !!!

And we *shud* move this dicussion from Asia to Europe
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pueo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Jan, 2003 04:58 am
hello and welcome docentp.

i like the books of dostoyevsky and solzhenitsyn by the way.

i hope steissd shows up here. he's originally from russia.
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Docent P
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Jan, 2003 12:32 am
Now some humor. The movie about Harry Potter is going to be banned in Russia because one of it's personages looks like Mr. Putin.

http://grani.ru/images/dobby2.jpg

There is the BBC page of voting about this subject.

Does President Putin look like Dobby?
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Mapleleaf
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Jan, 2003 01:54 am
It never crossed my mind. Now, it will.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Jan, 2003 07:07 pm
Docent P, thank you for your answers. Most interesting!

Docent P wrote:
Seemly the government is not really worried about the trial. At first it is totally perspectiveless. [..] Generally the main idea of this trial is not to judge someone but to justice the highest authorities (personally Comrade Putin). That is why it is directed against local Moscow authorities who of course can't response for these terrible events. All this reminds me the same events after Budennovsk (another very famous hostage-taking action of 1995) when our "democratic community" was discussing "who really ordered Alpha to begin their unsuccessful assault". Surprisingly the main guilt person became Inferior Minister Yerin. Despite the facts that Inferior Minister couldn't order anything to Alpha because it is subordinated directly to the President and that Yeltsin himself had ordered "to destroy these scums" in shot of TV cameras and this fragment had been demonstrated over the world.


So you think the trial is actually or partially intended to detract attention from Putin's responsibility? Kinda like - search for a scapegoat because of course, it can't be the Leader himself who's to blame? But then you would expect the government to edge it on a bit, if anything, perhaps, no? Or do you mean that those who started the trial picked a lesser authority simply because they knew it was hopeless to target Putin himself - that he is "untouchable", either because of his power or because he is still too popular?

Docent P wrote:
Our "independent media" can forget about such facts when it is necessary for the authorities.


Do people still believe the media, now that even stations like NTV have been silenced or coopted? I mean, did Putin's strategy to create a controlled output of information work or have the Russians simply returned to Soviet modes of scepticism towards anything the TV says (if the news says it, it must not be true, like that)? Or is that a question of class, education, social stratum?

You see, I'm full of questions, as, I'm sure, we all are. Still rare to 'talk' to people from Russia on the mainstream net forums.

Docent P wrote:
A couple of opposition Internet sites are very sceptical and express the same opinion I put on higher.


Do they reach anything like a substantial audience? I mean, I know connectivity to the net is very low in Russia, but are Internet-cafes a big thing and if they are, are they used a lot in "information-hunger"? I noted that in countries like Slovakia or Greece, net connectivity is also low, but through the Internet cafes still a large %age of the youth gets through - although whether they use it to read newspapers is a different Q, of course ;-). But you hear it about Iran and China, that the young use the net intensely to get information the government doesnt want them to have.

Docent P wrote:
Smile Dostoyevsky is a very specific author.

heh. Well, those are very clear views on Dostoyevski ;-)

We got the classics (Dostoyevski, Turgenev, Chekhov) in studies (though in shockingly small doses, actually), but my personal image of "the Russian (soul)" has, if we're talking literature, been shaped more by literature from the twenties, like Platonov's works, or from the eighties like - Yuz Alezhkovsky's Kangaroo ;-)

Wasn't there a writer being prosecuted now, in what was seen as a test case in how far the government can go in tackling critics? Forget who it was - was it Sorokin ? How did that end?

(Always more questions ... :wink:
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Jan, 2003 07:10 pm
Oh, finally,

Docent P wrote:
Is "capitalism" a known term in America (as I remember it was invented by Karl Marx)? I always prefer to say "democratic society" instead of "capitalism".


Dunno about America, but in Western Europe it's still used a lot, though only, it seems, in abstract terms to describe the West's economic system in opposition to - socialism, communism, other undefined non-free market systems. Or, like c.i. did, to define the transition to something a country makes from socialism / communism. But it's not like a party will say, we're fighting for capitalism, or something. In day-to-day political discourse, people would be for or against the "free market", the "market economy" or "liberalisation" (of the economy).

"Democratic society" is out of place as a synonym because it refers to a wholly different playing field. "Capitalism" refers to economy, and is thus juxtaposed against socialism, social democracy, a "mixed economy" or a "social market economy", or any other shade of economic arrangements that defines itself in differentiation from what then rhettorically would be called "wild capitalism".

A "democratic society" is about politics, and stands in juxtaposition against dictatorship, totalitarianism, authoritarianism etc. And though I won't get into the dicussion on whether socialist societies can be democratic, it doesn't require much effort to observe that capitalism (or espousal of the free market) can easily go hand in hand with dictatorship.
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Lash Goth
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Jan, 2003 07:27 pm
Wow.

We are to blame for Russia's internal problems, because we have the dollars.

Yet, they want the dollars.

To our esteemed friend, who has provided this insight, many thanks.

I thought it was so.
--------------------------
edit--
I must have crossed twenty postings. Alot of information from docent, and others. Wanted to make sure docent knows I am very appreciative of the insights. My above response was to one item that jumped out at me from one post.

There is much more of great interest in your text, and I am very glad we get a chance to speak to someone first hand about Life In Russia.

Thank you for sharing so patiently.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Jan, 2003 07:36 pm
Lash, It's getting to be that way in other countries too. The once friendly Egyptians are now very angry at American politics, and it's going to get so bad, it'll become unsafe for Americans to travel to that country. It's a crying shame, because Egypt offers so much in the way of historical interest. c.i.
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Lash Goth
 
  1  
Reply Fri 24 Jan, 2003 07:50 pm
I am seeing it so much now.
Before, it seemed more isolated for some reason to me. Now, it seems pervasive.

To hear it the way docent described is chilling to me. Russians blame us for their history. Astounding.
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